Hizb says peace talks incomplete without militants
15 March 2006
The Daily Times
Srinagar: A top Kashmiri militant commander said an Islamic insurgency in the disputed Himalayan region wouldn’t end until India and Pakistan include the militants in peace talks, a news agency reported on Wednesday. The comments by Misbah-ud-Din Ghazi of the Hizb-ul- Mujahedeen are the first by a militant leader suggesting the insurgents - who have been fighting to wrest Kashmir from India since 1989 – would consider playing a role in the peace process that was launched in January 2004 to end decades of enmity over the region between India and Pakistan. “India and Pakistan are engaged in talks to promote bilateral trade and ties,” Ghazi was quoted as saying by Kashmir’s Current News Service. “The talks to resolve Kashmir cannot begin without (Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen) being at the forefront,” Ghazi said, adding that until the militants are brought into the negotiations “the armed militancy is the only way to take the Kashmir struggle to a logical conclusion”. Kashmiri groups have been excluded from peace talks involving India and Pakistan, although Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has held preliminary talks with nonviolent Kashmiri separatists, and Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen briefly opened negotiations with New Delhi in 2000. Indian security forces, meanwhile, killed two suspected Islamic guerrillas in a gunbattle Tuesday after raiding an alleged militant ideout north of Srinagar, the region’s summer capital, said police officer Manzoor Ahmad. The slain guerrillas belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammad, one of the nearly dozen Islamic militant groups fighting in India’s part of Kashmir, Ahmad said. His claim could not be independently verified. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947,including two over Kashmir, which is divided between them but claimed by both. Tensions have eased considerably since the neighbours launched the peace process in 2004. The nuclear-armed rivals have opened several transport routes and introduced alerts to warn the other of impending missile tests.